In a recent poll, CNN/Opinion Research asked, "Do you think the United States should or should not make it easier for illegal immigrants to become citizens of the United States?" Sixty-six percent of respondents said the U.S. should not make it easier, while 33 percent said it should.
Inevitably, anti-immigration activists will use these results to claim that Congress shouldn't attempt to pass a comprehensive immigration reform package that includes a path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants currently in the country. Indeed, NumbersUSA is already touting it. The only problem is, nobody has proposed making it "easier for illegal immigrants to become citizens," which implies that unauthorized immigrants in the country currently have access to citizenship and reform would "make it easier."
In fact, the proposal outlined by Sens. Graham and Schumer would make it possible for some unauthorized immigrants "to earn the opportunity to work toward lawful permanent residence." Only after performing community service, paying fines, paying back taxes, passing a background check and demonstrating English proficiency could unauthorized immigrants gain access to "the back of the line" for permanent residence. And only after being a permanent resident for at least 5 years and meeting other eligibility requirements could they apply for naturalization, which requires that they pay a large fee, pass English and civics tests, and are judged to possess "good moral character."
By contrast, polls that describe proposals that have actually been considered found broad support. For instance, the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press found in 2009 that "most Americans (63%) say they favor providing a way for illegal immigrants currently in the country to gain legal citizenship if they pass background checks, pay fines and have jobs." An April 2009 Washington Post/ABC News poll also found that 61 percent of respondents support "a program giving illegal immigrants now living in the United States the right to live here legally if they pay a fine and meet other requirements."